Pianist, Composer, Vocalist, Educator

“. . . the sound is all Swiggett’s: refined and confident, open and inviting.”
     – All About Jazz

About Nelda

Jazz pianist and composer Nelda Swiggett has been active on Seattle’s music scene since the early 90’s. Her first band, Room to Move, featured a three-horn frontline performing her original compositions. Other bands followed, including the Nelda Swiggett Quartet, the Nelda Swiggett Trio, Stringtet (with viola and cello), the Megabopolis sextet, and most recently, her chamber jazz quintet with trombone and violin for “The Alaska Suite.” She has headlined her own group performing her original music at many of the Northwest’s top jazz venues, including Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, Bumbershoot, the Bellevue Jazz Festival, and the Earshot Jazz Festival.

original compositions & recordings

Nelda is an award-winning composer and OA2 recording artist. Her multiple CD recordings have received rave reviews and extensive airplay around the globe. Nelda’s melodic originals draw from a long list of influences, from jazz to Afro-Cuban, to gospel, classical and more. In 1998, her talent for composition was recognized by an Artist Trust Fellowship funded by the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2015, Nelda won the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra’s international Jazz Composition Contest for Women Composers, and her big band chart, “Cat Dreams,” debuted at the 2015 Earshot Jazz Festival. Nelda’s big band arrangements have been performed by Seattle’s nationally recognized Garfield High School Jazz Band I, the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra (SWOJO), and others. 

Listen to excerpts from Nelda’s five CD recordings.


Nelda’s current band, Megabopolis, features a three-horn frontline, with Travis Ranney (tenor saxophone), Michael Van Bebber (trumpet), Clif Swiggett (trombone/percussion), Nelda Swiggett (piano/vocal), Max Wood (drums), and Michael Glynn (bass). This “mini big band” performs Nelda’s original compositions as well as her arrangements of songs by other contemporary jazz artists, such as Brad Meldau, Michel Camilo and Justin Kauflin. 

Listen to Megabopolis recordings


the alaska suite

Nelda’s special project, “The Alaska Suite,” is inspired by the impacts of climate change, and features the emotional power of multiple mediums — spoken words, images, poetry and her five-piece chamber jazz ensemble: Julian Smedley (violin), Clif Swiggett (trombone/percussion), Nelda Swiggett (piano/compositions),  Adam Kessler (drums), and Chris Symer (bass).

Nelda’s love and concern for the natural world started early. She is a Seattle native, and spent her childhood hiking, climbing and skiing the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Her father Jack Christiansen was a passionate explorer of the wilderness. From a young age, Nelda followed him deep into the heart of the Olympic and Cascade mountains, mostly off trail, route finding with map and compass.

When Nelda entered the University of Washington, she was a classical piano performance major, until a serious ski accident landed her in a hospital bed in traction for two months. When she returned to college, she dropped out of the music program, fell in love with jazz, earned a Bachelor of Science in Scientific and Technical Communication, and embarked on a dual career as a technical writer and jazz musician. Who knew this combination of experiences and skills would later inspire her to communicate the science of climate change through the power of music.

Watch videos about the Alaska Suite.

Clif & Nelda's Little Big Band

Nelda met her future husband Clif Swiggett at a Halloween party in 1987. They’ve been playing music together ever since. Their duo, Clif & Nelda’s little BIG Band, debuted in 2013, and features Nelda on piano and vocals and Clif on trombone and percussion. They’ve performed at jazz clubs, private parties, weddings, and concert venues around the Northwest, and love to share their joy of music with all audiences. 

Watch a live video of Clif & Nelda’s Little Big Band.


“Swiggett has a unique touch…intensely appealing pianism…a voice with a depth similar to that of Abbey Lincoln…”  
– Lofton A Emenari, WHPK 88.5 FM, Chicago

“…a stunning project…held together by the highly original mind of Ms. Swiggett.”
– JazzTimes

“… a bright palette, a sinewy execution and a powerful, assertive command… the sound is all Swiggett’s: refined and confident, open and inviting.”
– All About Jazz

“Jessica Jennifer Williams comes to mind…we are in that territory.” 
–  Wondering Sound Reviews

“Swiggett’s vocal delivery is satisfyingly to-the-point, and behaves only as one ingredient, equal to all others…”
– Midwest Record

“Her music is precise without being dry, clean without being dull, and light without being fluff. The sound is as clear, direct and crisp as the gaze of her piercing blue eyes.”
– Earshot Magazine

“Seattle based pianist Nelda Swiggett has a bright smooth swinging quality to her mainstream approach and a minimalist almost bare knuckles attitude. Her key strokes are bold and assertive, as if she knows exactly the direction of her music.”
– All Music Guide